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|Muslims Skeptical About the Case Against Bin Laden|
|09/27/01 at 22:06:58|
Muslims Skeptical About the Case Against Bin Laden
Calling for Proof
Muslims Skeptical About the Case Against Bin Laden
By Leela Jacinto
Sept. 27 — As the United States prepares to formally release evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the Sept. 11 attacks, conclusions which seem obvious to most Americans may not be easily accepted by the entire Muslim world.
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While most Muslims do not condone the deadly attacks on the United States, convincing the skeptical masses will not be easy. The citizenry of many Muslim-dominated countries view U.S. foreign policy with despair, suspicion and even hatred, which adds to a pervasive anti-American sentiment.
Over the past two weeks, thousands of protesters in Pakistan have angrily demanded proof of the Saudi exile's involvement, a demonstration of dissent that threatens to destabilize one of the United States' pivotal coalition partners.
Acknowledging the growing demand for proof over the weekend, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised to release a document that would "describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack."
But until that happens, and as the outpouring of sympathy after the attacks gives way to concerns over domestic reactions to a likely U.S. retaliation, governments of countries such as Egypt, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates have warned that a rash response without concrete evidence may exacerbate their domestic problems.
A View From the Streets
"I think the entire Muslim world sees the U.S. as very aggressive industrially, militarily and commercially," says Bernard Haykel, a professor of Islamic Studies at New York University.
Haykel points to U.S. policy in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, as contributing to a feeling of resentment among Muslims. In particular, experts say Israel's use of U.S. weapons in strikes against Palestinians during the current intifada that broke out a year ago, is widely seen as an example of the arbitrary nature of U.S. policy.
"Muslims see Iraqi children denied food and medicines, they see U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, home to some of Islam's most sacred sites, they see the United States often backing regimes they consider repressive and it does not help America's P.R. campaign in the Muslim world, which is what is required," says Haykel.
But Haykel warns against making blanket judgments on the Muslim world's reactions to the United States. "Like many Third Worlders, there are Muslims desperate to get to the United States. They have families here and they continue to look to the United States to address their problems."
A Mosque Divided
While first-generation Muslim immigrants in the United States live in fear of a backlash against them after the Sept. 11 attacks, conflicting views on the political situation in their countries of origin have often added to the complexity of the emotional baggage they have been bearing.
At the gates of Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque, the largest Afghan mosque in Queens, N.Y., two American flags flutter in the autumn breeze. Past a roadside shrine of flowers, candles and the now ubiquitous pictures of the dead and missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center towers, a sign in Arabic and English at the entrance to the mosque extols worshippers to, "Enter ye here in peace and security."
Judging from the police car parked outside the compound and the posse of NYPD officers scrutinizing people walking in for the noon prayers, security is a prime concern here.
Two weeks after the gruesome terrorist attacks, Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq is a mosque divided.
Among the 5,000-strong congregation at Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq, there are about 20 families who support the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, explains Imam Mohammad Sherzad, the chief priest at the mosque.
While the attacks drew a strong condemnation of bin Laden from Sherzad, a denunciation supported by most of his congregation, the imam says the small group of Taliban supporters have been vociferous about their discontent over Sherzad's condemnation.
"We have had differences before the tragedy because some of these people have businesses that were associated with the Taliban," said Sherzad, "but after the tragedy, there have been serious rifts and these people have not attended Friday prayers. They ask me why I speak against Osama bin Laden. 'He is a good Muslim,' they say. They harass me many times."
Looking for Evidence
But the biggest source of contention has been, what many believe, is a question of proof. Many see a lack of hard evidence linking bin Laden to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Many Americans who come from the Indian commercial capital of Bombay, a city that suffered a spate of powerful blasts that ripped many public buildings including the crowded stock exchange on March 12, 1993, say they find the current situation "ironic."
India has repeatedly blamed its neighbor and arch foe, Pakistan, for the attack, which killed 506 people, and has maintained that the prime suspect in the Bombay blasts, a don from the Bombay underworld, is currently in Pakistan.
On its part, Pakistan has denied any involvement in the attacks and has repeatedly denied harboring the prime suspect in the case.
"This is just another case of the United States' duplicity and how they hold the world to different standards," says Paul Ibrahim, a former resident of Bombay.
"The United States urges caution and demands more proof whenever India holds Pakistan responsible for the blasts. But one day after the attacks [on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon], the United States knew Osama bin Laden was responsible. Implicit in this the fact that the U.S. holds itself up to different codes of conduct."
As the U.S. buildup of arms and troops in Central Asian region continues, some fear a revival of old tensions in a region rife with age-old suspicions and hatred.
"Once again, the United States talks of moral action while cultivating autocratic regimes to meet their goals," said Ibrahim referring to the pivotal role Pakistan, a country led by military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been playing in the alliance.
Some Afghan exiles of Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara descent who fled the country following the growing influence of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban are also wary of Pakistan's role in the current situation.
Pashtuns are a tribe that span across southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan and many Afghan exiles hold Pakistan responsible for fanning what they call the "Pashtun chauvinism" that helped fuel the Taliban conquest of most of Afghanistan.
"I hope this time the U.S. will take the initiative in its own hands and rid Afghanistan of the Taliban," said Sayed Ghulam, a worshipper at the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque. "I hope the U.S. will not be misguided by the Pakistanis as it was before."
Many experts believe the Taliban rose to power due to the military and financial aid channeled from the United States via Islamabad during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the height of the Cold War.
Behind him, worshippers at the noon service pray in peaceful unison to the imam's call. But beneath the unity, the differences are stark.
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